Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Block Arcade: Introduction

The Block Arcade (280-286 Collins Street) is arguably the most beautiful of Melbourne's historical and architectural treasures. The Collins Street wing of the arcade dates back to 1892 and the Elizabeth Street wing to 1893. The arcade was developed by the infamous financier, Benjamin Fink, of the City Property Company during Melbourne's glorious boom-time. The architect was David C. Askew and the design was inspired by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, Italy.  

At ground level, the Block Arcade showcases beautiful boutiques selling jewellery, watches, shirts, shoes, and chocolate. This has always been a fashionable place to shop, to see and be seen. The levels above are mainly used as offices. 

The Block Arcade features lavish interior decoration, a beautiful glass dome, and an intricate mosaic tiled floor. The mosaic floor was designed by the UK company Craven Dunnell and each tile was imported from Italy. In fact, the Block Arcade still holds in reserve samples of all colours used, except for dark chocolate. The Building and Engineering Journal noted that this was the largest expanse of mosaic to be laid down in Australia at the time. 

Below you can see the Collins Street and Elizabeth Street facades of the Block Arcade respectively. These are extraordinary examples of the Victorian style of Mannerism. Significant features include lower-level rustication and triangular pediments. 

Collins Street Facade

Elizabeth Street Facade

There is no doubt that the Block Arcade enjoys a long and rich history. However, the site of the arcade dates back even further. Click here to read the story. 

Buckrich, Judith, Collins: The Story of Australia's Premier Street (2005) 
Cannon, Michael, The Land Boomers (1966)
Block Arcade website:  
Heritage Victoria website:

Photos: My own, 2010 

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